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Balboa Park is rich in history and continues to be an important regional resource since its inception and through many generations. Fast forward to 2007 as the city faces fiscal woes, a transition to a different form of city government and changes that are proposed throughout city operations.

Throughout these discussions, I commend our city staff and volunteers, cultural institutions, user groups and lessees in Balboa Park for keeping the park beautiful in light of many of the challenges faced by the city.

Everyone, including me, has many questions about the needs of the park and the park’s condition after a century of use. Hence, this has been a time of reflection. Currently a coalition of private foundations (the San Diego Foundation, Parker Foundation and the Legler Benbough Foundation) is working with the city in a research study to determine the park’s condition and its needs into the future. When completed, this study will provide us with a snapshot of the physical conditions including unfunded needs, deferred maintenance, police and fire coverage — it will also survey access to philanthropy and other funding opportunities.

The unmet needs of the park are anticipated to be substantial — much more than what the city can address in the next decade. In anticipation of the results, consideration of a governance change has taken place. Last year, the Legler Benbough Foundation commissioned a study that surveyed the management of five successful parks throughout the United States. Although the topic of the best type of governance for Balboa Park has been bantered about for years, the release of the report brought the discussion of the future governance to the forefront.

Over the last few months, I discussed this issue with a panel at a Citizens for Century 3 breakfast, on public radio and public television. I’ve also reviewed newspaper articles and letters to the editor and talked to citizens throughout the city regarding the community’s thoughts about future governance of the park. It is quite evident through my contact with the community that we all care greatly for Balboa Park and want the best for it.

Today, we have an opportunity to continue that dialogue about the future stewardship of the park — its governance, planning the celebration for its centennial, identifying priorities and challenges, creating more open and park space are among the topics vital for Balboa Park’s entry into the next century of service. I’d like you to share your thoughts, visions, wish list items, and likes and dislikes. Together, we can all be better stewards of Balboa Park.

TONI ATKINS

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